I decided to write a novel in a month. Stupid idea...thirty days, 50000 words. I haven't written anything but email and dull work documents for many years so I set out with more than a little trepidation. I sat down on the first of November with nothing at all. No idea about plot, no idea about characters and no idea how to write a book. I did have three names and the idea that the book would be written in the first person from the perspective of two of them.
I wrote about 4000 words in two days, mostly introspective bollocks with no dialogue, no action and no sign of any character development. I jumped around frantically within the 12 years that my story decided to cover. By about the second week I realised that I had serious problems with the lack of characters, lack of dialogue and mostly with the lack of a decent narrative structure. So at the point where No Plot? No Problem! implied that my resolve was going to weaken I was bolstered by having to chop my book into a more sensible chronology and build up some characters.
Week three was were a plot started to happen. I had decided, for want of having nothing in my own head, to steal the plot of the film The Maltese Falcon, nothing actually came of this and my book bears absolutely no resemblance to the film but it did give me a seed. Having decided to get a bit of plot and action into my story it actually made the whole thing start to fall apart. The action didn't work with all the aforementioned introspective bollocks and the main plot driver was a painfully weak one. Week three is also where my book got a name "Plan 4" - just because that was the name of the first chapter and so when I hit save in Word that's what it decided to call it.
Into the home run and I could see my book coming to an end, I had no idea how it was going to end but it clearly was ending. The characters were settling down, the weak plot was getting a resolution and my three main characters were still talking introspective bollocks. It ended in Suffolk having started in London and travelled through Manchester, Lancaster and New York City during its travels.
The whole process was very peculiar I ma astounded that I managed to write 50000 words from scratch with no clear starting point. The story happened, I had nothing but the more I wrote the more it just happened.
I learnt that...
- I can write - not necessarily well and not necessarily anything that people might want to read, but I can write.
- I can't write sex - it's just too weird, every time any of my characters looked like they might be getting it on I wandered off and came back when it was all over. Writing sex is something that frustrated 14 year old boys probably do brilliantly, but as a forty-two year old it just made me think I was a frustrated 14 year old boy writing out his fantasies.
- I can't write dialogue - you'd think after listening to people talk all my life I'd be able to write it. I can't, I ain't no Roddy Doyle.
- I can't write action - There's very little action in my book but when it arrives, it squirms around like a dying slug for a couple of lines and then drowns in a sea of...introspective bollocks.
- I can't write grammatically - I have no idea where my full stops and commas should go or if I should be using semi-colons, Word keeps suggesting I do, as well as criticising my "fragments" and "run on sentences".
- Having a plan might help - the fact that I wrote a novel without a plan is quite impressive, but it makes me wish that I knew my story before I started writing it.
- I need to read more - I have little flurries of reading, but at the moment most of my reading is taken up with comics (which I guess ought to help with the action and dialogue problems). I used to read a lot but computers have eaten away at my reading...I need to change.
- I overuse the ellipse...and the hyphen.